Medford School Board looks at adding kindergarten at Vibes charter school

The Medford School Board will vote tonight on whether or not to give Vibes Public Charter School the go-ahead to offer full-day kindergarten to 50 students starting this fall.

Kids Unlimited, a free after-school program for low-income children in Medford, acts as a parent organization to the school, which opened last fall. Vibes currently caters to 150, first- through third-grade students but, starting this fall, will offer fourth grade and, depending on the board's decision, kindergarten.

"I'm optimistic and hopeful," said Tom Cole, executive director of Kids Unlimited. "We know that what we're doing is something really out of the box, but we're hoping the leadership in place is willing to look at what we've done thus far in a very short period of time."

Vibes, like other charter schools in the area, has its own budget and school board but operates under the umbrella of the Medford School District and, therefore, is accountable to the Medford School Board.

The board will vote on amending Vibes' charter at the meeting held at 7 tonight in the board room at Central Medford High School, 815 S. Oakdale.

If the board approves the kindergarten program, the school will get to work transforming its 13,000-square-foot performance area into seven classrooms, three offices and a commons area for small parent-teacher and student gatherings. The school also will add an additional two classrooms near the entry of the school that will be devoted to early-childhood (ages 0 to 4) programs, offered by the Family Nurturing Center.

So far, the school has raised or been pledged $265,000 for the expansion project, which will cost about $500,000, Cole said.

"We are confidant that the folks who have stood by us in this pursuit will continue to stand by us as we expand," he said.

The school also will need to raise an additional $145,000 to cover the operational costs of adding fourth-grade and kindergarten classrooms and collaborating with OnTrack and the Family Nurturing Center as both organizations will provide support services to the charter school's students and their families.

Vibes Principal Stephanie Johnson said there is currently a waiting list for every grade and many parents of Vibes students have expressed interest in enrolling their younger children in Vibes' kindergarten in the fall.

— Teresa Thomas

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